Computer Graphics World

September / October 2017

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18 cgw s e p t e m b e r . o c t o b e r 2 0 1 7 tools of the trade From a technical standpoint, this new film is much different from the others in the franchise. "Seven years and three movies have been released since the first Despi- cable Me, and we have adjusted and vastly improved our pipeline and proprietary soware," says Chauffard. So while on first look it may appear that the studio was able to reuse its recurring cast, that was not actually the case. The Illumination crew mostly reuses designs and redoes modeling and texturing to match the studio's most recent pipeline developments. "In a way, you could say we reuse our character designs, since the designs and proportions are the same. But we rebuilt them to improve their topologies to be the most efficient as possible, to achieve the best performance, with updated rigging tools, new deformer tools, and a facial animation system," Chauffard adds. "Facial expressions and body language are the emotions for the character – you can't underestimate the importance of that in animated movies." Illumination also improved the shad- ing and texturing, as well as the cloth simulations, in the film – Despicable Me 3 contains far more simulations than the previous films in the series. "The more feature films we make, the more cloth and hair simulations we incorporate, as we streamline our dynamic simulation pipeline and improve some of our dynamic tools," explains Chauffard. "And of course, as the computer power increases, we're able to simulate more." Despite the new characters, environ- ments, and actions, Despicable Me 3 didn't require any specific new tools outside of the usual evolution of the studio's so- ware and plug-ins. The studio uses a mixture of com- mercial and in-house soware, the latter including Illumination's own asset manager soware used by the entire team and proprietary lighting soware. "We feel that it's extremely important to control the look of our movies, so right from the start we invested in R&D to develop our lighting soware," says Chauffard. "We experiment quite a bit, mixing technologies to achieve the best possible result with the fastest render time." On the commercial side, the artists use Autodesk's Maya, Side Effects' Houdini, Foundry's Nuke, and Tweak's RV, atop of which the studio oen builds custom plug-ins. "As I assume everybody is, we're always pushing technology and computers fur- ther," says Chauffard. "The most complex issue is always the same – to have a streamlined pipeline able to maintain the pace required to deliver the best quality for the movie, while ensuring that each department can work properly and deliver in time to the next [department]." readY, set, action! Despicable Me 3 contains a range of effects, mostly done in Houdini. Never- theless, there are two big-effects action sequences: the opening sequence in the ocean and the final battle in Los Angeles at the end of the film. For the water, Illumi- nation began improving its effects pipeline using Houdini while working on The Secret Life of Pets, to handle the two sequences that take place on a river. On Sing, the theater destruction was a huge water mo- ment. "Those two features really helped us get ready for the big opening sequence in this film," notes Chauffard. The final battle contains some classic destruction shots, albeit with chewing gum. "Unfortunately, those bubbles didn't require anything technically new. We would have loved to talk about a new superpowerful bubble gum toolmaker!" Chauffard says with a laugh. Making those two scenes even more difficult was the fact that the opener was the teaser, so it had to be delivered very early in the production – "and it's a long sequence with lots of effects," he adds. The other one is very long and filled with effects, too, and it was the last sequence the crew worked on – at a time when they were pressed to deliver the movie. For the crowds, the artists use various tools based on classic keyframe animation cycles, as opposed to a complete crowd system. "We think tertiary characters and crowds bring an extra level to the mov- ie, and in telling background stories, we animated lots of tertiary characters via our keyframe crowd animation department," Chauffard says. In this way, the animators are able to keep complete control of the Minions joking around in the background of many shots. But, they do have the tools to du- plicate, copy, and then modify an anima- tion from one character to another. "The longest part is making the actual cycles," Chauffard adds. For especially massive crowds, the cycles are used within a parti- cle system. the next Move Does Gru return to a life of crime? You need to see the film to find out. But what's not a secret is that the Minions find themselves in trouble (yet again) and need Gru's help. And vice versa. And this leads us to the next adventure in the series, Minions 2, which is planned for July 2020. You can bet it will feature many recurring, recognizable characters that have again been restructured to take advantage of the latest tools and technologies, enabling Illumination to continue delivering animated features that audiences crave. Karen Moltenbrey is the chief editor of CGW. SUPERVILLAIN BALTHAZAR BRATT RELIVES THE 1980S. THE MINIONS REVOLT.

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